An Evening with PureLifi at Startup Grind

With Scotland fast becoming a center of excellence for entrepreneurship, it can be difficult for a start up focused event to stand out from the many taking place daily throughout the Country. Yet, I felt genuinely excited to be attending my first Startup Grind event on behalf of ESS last week. Everything about this event series, from its branding to the use of the word ‘grind’ in its name suggests a barebones, no holds barred approach to preparing entrepreneurs for the road ahead – with the passion, gusto and enthusiasm so reflective of Scotland’s vibrant startup community.

This month’s guest speaker was Mostafa Afgani, CTO and Co-Founder of PureLifi, who expertly occupied the hot seat as our host, Lisa Thomson, guided him though a brilliant question and answer session. What really struck me about Mostafa’s talk was its honest and unscripted nature – just an intimate and authentic interview detailing the bumps in the road to success and how to overcome them.

Hearing Mostafa speak of his movement from academia to the commercial business world was fascinating – taking cutting-edge technology developed within a university laboratory and transforming it into a consumer product. The product that PureLifi have developed allows the transfer of data across light as opposed to “traditional Wifi”. This offers huge benefits such as improved security and the ability to have a high-speed connection in places otherwise impossible (one example of this would be underwater in a submarine!).

Mostafa was also on hand to provide some help and advice to budding entrepreneurs:

  • Fear: Don’t be afraid to take the plunge, what you get from the experience is incomparable
  • Team: Pick the right people and build a great team, it’s not all about the CV. You don’t know everything so bring on people that know more that you. Measure new recruits against the culture in the team
  • Failure: Don’t be afraid of failure, any start-up company will have to go through multiple iterations before you get it to where you want it to be.

By encouraging Mostafa to talk about those bumps in the road, Startup Grind created a true sense of community and reflected an unwavering commitment to educating entrepreneurs about the challenges they will face on their journey and the ways they can be overcome.

Stuart Whiting
Resourcing Consultant

EES Start up at Scottish EDGE 10

Last week, I once again attended one of my favourite events on the Scottish entrepreneurial event calendar, the Scottish EDGE final. I arrived early to set-up my stand in the exhibitor atrium and the place was already buzzing – a mix of excitement and nervous energy from those getting ready to pitch their business plans to the Round 10 judging panel.

We were welcomed to the event by our host, Mel Sherwood, who did a fantastic job on her first outing as EDGE compere. The tone of the day was set early, with the first batch of pitchers being of such a high standard that three of the five were later announced as winners at the evening award ceremony, including Turtle Pack, who together with Staels Design, was awarded the maximum amount possible of 100k.

The panel for this round was chaired by Brian McBride, Chairman of ASOS, with James Watt of BrewDog assuming the Simon Cowell role, putting the pitchers through their paces with razor sharp questioning that left many a little scarred, but not defeated. With 240 applications having been received, the panel had their work cut-out choosing the winners from the 20 that had made it through to the final. Nevertheless, twelve winners were chosen and were collectively awarded over £700k in funding, bringing the total for this round to £1.24 million when added to the sum already awarded in the Young EDGE, Wild Card EDGE and Higgs EDGE Categories.

This was my second EDGE outing as a member of one of its supporting partner organizations and as with my last visit, the sense of comradery and common goal of supporting Scotland’s growth as a global player in entrepreneurship was evident. Seeing the finalists genuinely rooting for their competitors during the winner announcements at the award ceremony certainly reinforced this ethos. Quite fitting then that the final came a week after Scottish EDGE announced the launch of the ‘EDGE Pledge’, a pay-it-forward initiative from Scottish EDGE which allows previous winners the opportunity to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

For me, the award show highlight came in the form of keynote speaker Steve Dunlop of Scottish Canals. While I’ll admit to initially being a little skeptical as to how interesting a talk on canals could be, I (like the majority of the auditorium) was blown away by the ingenuity shown by Steve and his team, rejuvenating forgotten waterway areas in Scotland through fascinating innovation. I’ll be looking at the Kelpies in a whole new light.

The applications for Round 11 open online on 31st July and I can’t wait to see the next batch of finalists take to the stage at #EDGE11, which I hope will include some of the brilliant finalists who missed out on a winning spot this time, because as Scottish EDGE CEO Evelyn McDonald explained, over 50% of EDGE winners to date were awarded funding on their second, third, or fourth attempt.

Craig Jackson
Director | ESS Start Up